Firehouse Subs Opens
The first responder connection
by Sally Mitani
According to Jessica Hammond, a lot of people say, "I like your gimmick," when they see the ladder, pole, sledgehammer, and fire hose nozzles on the wall at Firehouse Subs.
"But it's not a gimmick," she says. An AAFD truck pulled up and firefighters ceremoniously presented the paraphernalia, "and there's more in the basement." OK, the turnout coat hanging on a peg, though it appears to be the real deal, came from the chain's corporate headquarters. Firehouse founders Chris and Robin Sorensen are brothers whose family has a decades-long record of fire and police service.
Since 9/11, firefighters are popular public servants (and "Police Station Subs" doesn't sound nearly as inviting). In 2005, the Sorensens established the Public Safety Foundation, which has donated more than $6.4 million to first responders, and fire stations around the country are tuned into that. Franchise owners are encouraged to connect with local firefighters for their mutual benefit, and Hammond has: "I've met with Chief [Chuck] Hubbard, and we're in close contact with [assistant chief] Ellen Taylor. She is so awesome." Eventually, Hammond says, the brothers hope the foundation is bigger than the sandwich chain.
Hammond is herself awesome in the category "Bring Home the Bacon, Fry It Up in a Pan." Eight months pregnant with her second child in April, she was commuting from Plymouth to work the long day shift and was still sprightly in the late afternoon. Her husband, Doug, who works full-time as a district sales manager for Coca-Cola, usually relieves her at dinner time.
Hammond, with a culinary degree from Schoolcraft and a hospitality degree from EMU, would have preferred to start her own restaurant, "but that costs a million dollars. So I started looking at franchises. Sonic [burgers] really wanted to be here, but they wanted a million dollars." Firehouse was a better fit with their pocketbook. It took two years to find the right location. (Another restaurant had originally leased the former White Market space; she quickly
nabbed it when that fell through. She says she felt bad when she learned how much White Market had meant to the area.)
Firehouse competes with Potbelly and Quiznos (not so much Jimmy John's, which offers only cold sandwiches). "I'm not going to say anything bad about them. Hey, I eat at Potbelly and Quiznos myself"--though presumably not so much these days. She notes Firehouse does have a technical edge, a steam box that blasts new life into cold cuts before they hit the toaster.
Because of her husband's pull with Coke, Firehouse is one of the first area restaurants to get a very fun Coke "Freestyle" machine that dispenses more than a hundred Coke-trademarked soft drinks. Fun, at least, for the person using it, who can, and sometimes does, pause and deliberate over screen after screen of options.
Firehouse Subs, 609 E. William, 332-4100. Daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m. firehousesubs.com
This article has been editing since it appeared in the May 2013 Ann Arbor Observer. The year the Public Safety Foundation was founded, and its donations to date, have been corrected.
[Originally published in May, 2013.]